IT security risks are expected to intensify in 2024. The emergence of new technologies may be helping London businesses to grow, but they are also arming threat actors with weapons they can use to infiltrate your business network.
It is estimated that the cost of cyberattacks with cost the global economy around $10.5 trillion. London businesses are attractive targets for cybercriminals. The city’s economic significance makes the UK capital a hotbed for cybercriminals to seek financial gain through activities such as theft, fraud, and extortion.
Whether you’re a multi-national powerhouse, a small startup, or something in between, the data you store within your IT network and personal devices represent lucrative opportunities for cybercriminals.
To mitigate IT security risks, London businesses are advised to keep abreast of evolving cyber attack trends. If you know the potential threats, you are better placed to prevent them.
Implementing a robust cybersecurity strategy includes measures such as employee training, regular software updates, strong access controls, encryption, and comprehensive threat detection and response mechanisms.
In this article, we take a look at where the biggest cyber threats are likely to come from. The information in this article is taken from the latest emerging trends. There may be other threat vectors lurking in the shadows that haven’t emerged in the light yet.
Watch this space.
Evolving Phishing Scams
It’s no secret that phishing attacks have been the most significant threat to the cybersecurity defences of London businesses. Up to now, phishing attacks have been relatively easy to spot due to low-quality designs and poor choice of words.
However, 2024 will see an evolution of sophisticated phishing attacks. Cybercriminals will leverage advanced social engineering techniques, personalised content, and AI-generated messages to deceive targets.
Armed with artificial intelligence (AI) tools, attackers can craft convincing emails, websites, and messages that closely mimic legitimate sources. With improvements to the quality of email designs, phishing scams will be much harder for users to discern between genuine and fraudulent communications.
Moreover, phishing attacks are no longer limited to email. Cybercriminals are exploiting multiple communication channels, including SMS, social media platforms, messaging apps, and voice calls, to target victims. This multi-channel approach allows attackers to reach users across different platforms and devices, increasing the likelihood of success.
C-suite executives, fund managers and London business owners will be top targets. Business Email Compromise (BEC), also known as CEO fraud or whaling attacks, targets organisations’ executives and employees with the aim of tricking them into transferring funds, disclosing sensitive information, or initiating unauthorised transactions.
BEC attacks often involve impersonating company executives or partners to deceive victims and bypass traditional email security measures. For example, Dawn in accounts may receive a fake email from a hijacked email account, or a fake account that appears to be from the CEO asking them to transfer funds to a partner. Yes, this happens.
Lack of Employee Training
IBM report that many businesses are still struggling to understand cyber risks that could lead to a data breach or ransomware attack.
Social engineering campaigns such as phishing emails, text messaging and malicious links in social media chats can trick employees into divulging sensitive information or downloading malware onto their work devices.
Employees who are not adequately trained in recognising social engineering tactics and digital real estate threat actors are more likely to fall victim to these types of attacks.
To mitigate the IT security risks associated with a lack of employee training, London businesses should prioritise cybersecurity awareness and training programs for all staff members.
IT security training should cover essential topics such as knowing how to identify phishing emails, password security, data handling best practices, awareness of where and how cyberattacks can occur, recognising and reporting security incidents, and compliance with organisational security policies and procedures.
By investing in employee training and promoting a culture of cybersecurity awareness, London businesses can enhance their overall security posture and reduce the likelihood of successful cyber attacks and data breaches.
By the way, cybersecurity solutions don’t have to be expensive. We explain how you can train your staff in cybersecurity awareness without it costing the earth in this article.
Insider threats come in the form of disgruntled employees or insiders coerced by external actors to engage in corporate espionage or sabotage activities. Activities that can land you in hot water with “data protection” nazis, include deleting critical files, disrupting network operations, or introducing malware into the organisation’s systems which can cause downtime, data theft or financial loss.
“Insiders” with malicious intent abuse their privileges to steal sensitive data, such as customer information, intellectual property, or financial records, and exfiltrate it from the organisation’s systems. This can lead to data breaches and reputational damage.
Even well-intentioned employees can inadvertently pose a security risk through negligent actions. The Information Commissioner’s Office dictates that even something as innocuous as accidentally deleting sensitive data can be deemed as a fineable defence under GDPR. Don’t panic though, you only have an obligation to report significant data breaches. Deleting a file of say 100 customers is not significant. 100,000 on the other hand probably is.
Generative AI can be leveraged by cybercriminals to automate and optimise the execution of cyber attacks in several ways. This includes the use of AI algorithms to rapidly identify vulnerabilities, launch targeted phishing campaigns, and deploy malware at scale.
Algorithms that enable generative AI, particularly those based on deep learning techniques like GANs (Generative Adversarial Networks), are capable of generating highly convincing fake content, including images, videos, audio, and text.
Generative AI can be used to generate highly personalised and convincing social engineering attacks. By analysing vast amounts of data, AI can be used for malicious purposes such as creating realistic-looking phishing emails, deepfake videos for disinformation campaigns, or counterfeit documents.
Cybercriminals can also leverage Generative AI to automate and enhance attack techniques. For instance, AI-powered malware can dynamically generate new variants to evade detection by traditional security measures, making it more challenging for cybersecurity systems to identify and mitigate threats effectively.
Not only that, but AI models themselves are susceptible to adversarial attacks. Subtle modifications to input data can trick the algorithm into producing incorrect or malicious outputs. Adversaries can exploit these vulnerabilities to manipulate AI systems, bypass security controls, or undermine the integrity of AI-generated content.
To address these AI security risks robust security measures such as AI-specific threat detection and mitigation techniques are being worked on. It’s difficult to say how effective these defence tools will be as we enter a new frontier of IT security.
Failure to regularly update and patch software leaves systems vulnerable to known security vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit. Software always develops vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cybercriminals.
Hackers actively scan for and exploit these vulnerabilities to launch attacks, such as malware infections, ransomware, or unauthorised access. And even small businesses use a raft of exploitable software, and each unpatched software provides cybercriminals with potential entry points into the network.
As the number of unpatched vulnerabilities grows, so does the organisation’s exposure to security risks, making it more susceptible to cyberattacks and data breaches.
Cybercriminals use automated tools to scan for systems with unpatched software vulnerabilities and deploy malware payloads to exploit them. Once inside the network, malware can propagate rapidly, infecting other systems and devices and causing widespread damage.
To avoid leaving software unpatched, it is advisable to establish a robust patch management process to regularly identify, prioritise, and apply software patches and updates across all systems and devices in the IT infrastructure.
Remote Workers, BYOD and QI Codes
If you allow remote workers to use personal devices to access your business network, we strongly recommend warning them about where cybersecurity thefts chiefly lie.
We trust you have already taken precautions to secure personal devices and home Wi-Fi networks with endpoint security. But the bigger risk is when remote workers connect to unsecured public Wi-Fi networks in coffee shops, airports, or co-working spaces.
Hackers can exploit vulnerabilities in unsecured Wi-Fi networks to intercept sensitive data transmitted over the network, conduct man-in-the-middle attacks, or distribute malware to connected devices.
More recently, attackers have physically tampered with QR codes displayed in public places by replacing legitimate QR codes with fake QR codes that conceal malicious URLs.
Malicious QR codes lead users to phishing websites, malware downloads, or other malicious content. Scanning a QR code that contains a malicious URL can result in the user unknowingly compromising their device or personal information.
In addition, QR code scanning applications or the software coffee shops and restaurant’s used to process QR codes may contain vulnerabilities that can be exploited by attackers to gain unauthorised access to users’ devices or execute malicious code.
The easiest way to avoid being caught out by a malicious QR is to prevent employees from using personal devices to access your business network. The other option is to forbid remote workers from working in public places or scanning QR codes.
However, we appreciate this is not possible for most businesses in the current paradigm. Awareness, education and vigilance is the other option. Before scanning a QR code make sure it isn’t pasted over the original code.
Also, take note of the URL you are being directed to. If it is not the same as you expect, or it is unknown — for example, some artists use QR to showcase their work — don’t log into an app or visit a website.
Biometric Data Breaches
As biometric authentication becomes more prominent on digital devices, the risk of biometric data being compromised becomes a very real threat. What’s more scary is that stolen biometric data cannot be reset like you can with the traditional password and username.
Because biometric data is often stored in centralised databases or devices that may be susceptible to hacking, if a device is compromised, attackers can steal or manipulate biometric data for malicious purposes.
Stolen biometric data can be used to bypass authentication systems. For example, high-resolution images or 3D models of fingerprints or faces can be used to fool biometric scanners, allowing attackers to gain unauthorised access to protected systems or facilities.
The best way of preventing biometric data from being stolen is to prevent hackers from getting access to devices in the first place. In that respect, IT security teams simply use existing strategies.
The real danger from biometric data comes if it is stolen from third-party devices such as banks, government agencies (tax, passport) and access controls on the front of your office building. You don’t have control over the data of your employees that are collected by other parties.
In reality, the existing mechanisms of encryption, username, password and multi-factor authentication will still be required to enhance security and verify the identity of users. Biometric controls just create an extra step of authenticity for logging in. It’s actually not that useful.
IoT Cyber Attacks
The Internet of Things (IoT) is being tapped up as the next tech juggernaut to wow the world. By the end of 2024, an estimated 207 billion tools, toys, devices and appliances will be connected to the worldwide network.
For tech businesses, IoT is a real money spinner. But unless your business is in line to take your share of the predicted $12.5 trillion, is IoT really a viable option for the majority of businesses in London?
It could be. There is no doubt there are business benefits and commercial opportunities. However, the problem most companies will encounter is that many of the IoT devices that are connected lack robust security features and are vulnerable to exploitation by cybercriminals.
Sophisticated attackers can exploit vulnerabilities to gain unauthorised access to IoT devices, compromise their functionality, or use them as entry points into larger networks – such as your business database.
Compromised IoT devices can be recruited into botnets, which are networks of infected devices controlled by attackers. Botnets can be used to launch large-scale distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, overwhelm targeted systems or networks with malicious traffic, and disrupt services or operations.
Worse still, IoT devices often collect and transmit sensitive data, such as personal information, health records, or financial data. The more data hackers collect about certain individuals the better placed they are to manipulate employees in social engineering attacks.
IT Security in London
If you’re a London business and have concerns about your IT security, contact us today and speak with one of our senior IT consultants. With troubling cyber threats looming on the horizon, speaking with experienced and knowledgeable IT security specialists gives you peace of mind.